Two national advocacy groups, Fight for $15 and Time's Up, have joined forces to take on the world's largest fast food service, announcing that they'd lodged a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Tuesday — just two days before the company's annual shareholder meeting, AP reported.
Fight for $15, a grassroots advocacy group that promotes raising the minimum wage, organized the lawsuit, which includes 10 women from nine cities. Time's Up, a national advocacy organization formed in the wake of the #MeToo movement by the National Women's Law Center that provides resources for women who may not otherwise be able to file sexual harassment lawsuits, is covering the lawsuit's legal costs.
2 years ago, #FightFor15 workers filed complaints against McDonald's for sexual harassment. Since then, they haven't done anything to fix the problem.— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) May 22, 2018
If you've been sexually harassed working fast food call (844) 384-4495 to get help. #MeToo #MeTooMcDonalds pic.twitter.com/UUsAU7KNk4
"Women at fast food restaurants experience sexual harassment 60 percent more frequently than women at other jobs," says a video on Fight for $15's website. "McDonalds: end sexual harassment at your stores TODAY. Make sure no worker faces sexual harassment at any store again."
The website for Time's Up notes that nearly half of working women in the US have experienced harassment in the workplace and that one third of women between 18 and 34 years old have been sexually harassed at work, though 71 percent said they did not report it.
Have you faced sexual misconduct — including assault, harassment, abuse and related retaliation — in the workplace? The #TIMESUP Legal Defense Fund may be able to connect you to an attorney. Learn more here: https://t.co/mkPOaZIqWl— TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund (@TIMESUPLDF) March 12, 2018
Jezebel detailed some of the complaints in the lawsuit. In one instance, a supervisor did nothing to help a 15-year-old cashier who complained about a coworker who repeatedly harassed her using graphic, sexual language. In another, a New Orleans woman who complained about a coworker groping her was not only told by managers that she had encouraged her co-worker, but also told her to take it to "the next level" with him. She never reported a second instance of harassment by another coworker for fear of not being taken seriously. A third complaint included in the lawsuit tells of a Durham worker who was pressured for sex by her managers and mocked her for complaining about another co-worker who did the same.
AP reported that other heinous episodes in the lawsuit include female employees who were subjected to indecent exposure and lewd comments from their superiors.
"McDonald's advertises all over television saying it's ‘America's best first job,' but my experience has been a nightmare," one of the harassed women said in an email to Jezebel.
Fight for $15 said the restaurants named in the suit are all franchises, which McDonald's claims it is not responsible for because franchisees are independent business owners. Accordingly, the corporation takes a lax stance toward enforcing standard practices in its franchise locations, which makes holding franchisees accountable for everything from wage theft to sexual harassment difficult, AP reported.
McDonald's spokesperson Terri Hickey told AP in an email that the company "takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same."
In March, the fast food giant notably inverted its golden "M" logo to form a "W" in honor of International Women's Day.